fleuryandjohnson

Fair or not, Pittsburgh Penguins cannot ignore goalie controversy

At some point, you just have to throw out what should happen, what took place in the past and even the acknowledgment of dumb luck and just accept the obvious truth in front of you. The Pittsburgh Penguins are giving Marc-Andre Fleury every opportunity to succeed (and therefore take ownership of his hopeful place as the team’s No. 1 goalie) and he continues to fall short of the mark.

Is it completely fair to Fleury to blame him for an ugly 1-5 start to the season? No, not really. Every loss isn’t his fault, after all, as the team in front of him must be held accountable for each defeat as well. Still, the bottom line is that the team earned a point in every game backup Brent Johnson started (4-0-1) while only earning two points in six Fleury appearances (1-5).

Whether the team plays more responsibly for Johnson or Fleury is the victim of bad luck or tougher matchups, it’s blatantly clear that the Penguins need to ride the hot hand rather than attempting to appease their $5 million man. To be fair to Fleury, I thought I’d take a look at each goalie’s games to see if Johnson is the beneficiary of random luck more than anything else.

Inside Johnson’s numbers

@ New Jersey (Oct. 11): Johnson stopped 30 out of 31 shots for the win. Pittsburgh scored three goals.

vs. Islanders (Oct. 15): Stopped 22 out of 24 shots for the OT win. Pittsburgh scored three goals.

@ Philadelphia (Oct. 16): Stopped 29 out of 30 shots for the win. Pittsburgh scored five goals.

vs. Ottawa (Oct. 18): Stopped 32 out of 34 shots for the win. Pittsburgh scored five goals.

vs. St. Louis (Oct. 23): Stopped 23 out of 24 shots for OT loss. Pittsburgh scored zero goals.

So, overall Johnson allowed only seven goals in five games, stopping a stunning 136 out of 143 shots. The only time he lost, he did it in overtime and the Penguins didn’t give him a single goal to work with. The Penguins allow an average of 28.6 shots per game against Johnson, so it’s not like he’s getting an in-net vacation either.

Let’s compare those numbers with Fleury’s. (Warning: these numbers might get ugly.)

Inside Fleury’s numbers

vs. Philadelphia (Oct. 7): Fleury stopped 24 out of 27 shots in a loss. Pittsburgh scored two goals.

vs. Montreal (Oct. 9): Stopped 24 out of 27 shots in a loss. Pittsburgh scored two goals.

vs. Toronto (Oct. 13): Stopped 10 out of 14 shots; he was pulled from this game. Pittsburgh scored three goals.

@ Nashville (Oct. 21): Stopped 21 out of 24 shots in OT win. Pittsburgh scored four goals.

@ Tampa Bay (Oct. 27): Stopped 26 out of 30 shots in loss. Pittsburgh scored three goals.

vs. Philadelphia (Oct. 29): Stopped 21 out of 24 shots in loss. Pittsburgh scored two goals.

As you can see, it’s pretty hard to give Fleury the benefit of the doubt by simply looking at the numbers. Fleury stopped 126 out of 146 shots, allowing 20 goals in six appearances. While Johnson’s lowest single-game save percentage was 91.7, Fleury did not produce a single game with a save percentage above 90 percent this season.

On top of that, the Penguins are actually playing equal or better defense in front of him, at least from a shots allowed standpoint. (While getting pulled early from that game against Toronto might skew the numbers, the Penguins only allowed 24.33 shots per game against “MAF.”) Johnson experienced marginally better goal support this season (the team scored 16 goals in his five appearances and 16 in Fleury’s six), but hasn’t had any other obvious advantages.

Does this mean that Johnson stands as a better long-term answer than Fleury? No, not unless these trends continue. Simply put, though, their numbers are night-and-day right now. Rather than making the most comfortable decision by not upsetting their big money goalie, the Penguins should make the wise choice and see how much longer Johnson will continue this hot start.

That’s my opinion, though. What do you think the Penguins should do? Should they turn their goalie rotation into a temporary “1a/1b” situation? Do you think the Penguins should give Johnson or Fleury most of the starts? Share your thoughts in the comments.

VIDEO: Penguins honor Sidney Crosby for recording 1,000th career point

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This past week Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby became the 86th player in league history to record 1,000 points in the NHL when he assisted on a Chris Kunitz goal in a win over the Winnipeg Jets. He is the 11th youngest player to reach the milestone, doing so at age 29 and making an already massive accomplishment that much more impressive when you consider the low scoring era he has played in.

Before Sunday afternoon’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, the Penguins’ first home game since Crosby reached the 1,000 point mark on Thursday night, the team honored with a pre-game ceremony that included a golden stick and a plaque made out of the roof of the old Civic Arena, the building in Pittsburgh that Crosby played in for the first five years of his career.

Check out the ceremony in the video above.

This season Crosby is second in the NHL scoring race with 64 points in 51 games, trailing Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid by three points (McDavid has played in eight more games). Crosby also leads the league with 31 goals entering play on Sunday.

More: Sidney Crosby records 1,000th career point

Rangers keep rolling with win over Capitals

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The New York Rangers are on some kind of a roll right now.

They were winners for the seventh time in their past eight games thanks to their 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon and have now won 10 of their past 13 games to put a pretty massive gap between them and the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference (they are now 13 points ahead of Boston).

Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello provided the offense on Sunday afternoon, with Zuccarello’s third period goal — his 12th of the season — going in the books as the game-winner.

It was also another strong day for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist as he continues to regain his form after a tough first half of the season. With Sunday’s 29-save performance he has now won nine of his past 12 starts since Jan. 18. During that stretch he has allowed two goals or less in eight of those starts and has an overall save percentage of .936 during that stretch.

The crazy thing about this run for the Rangers is that for as good as they have been, and for as many wins as they have stacked up in recent weeks, they are still in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and relegated to a wild card spot because the three teams ahead of them (Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus) keep collecting points. The Rangers are still two points back of the Blue Jackets (and if Columbus wins on Sunday night, it would be back to four points).

Just for some perspective on that, if they were in the Atlantic Division they would have a seven point lead. They would have a one-point lead over San Jose. They would be in second place in the Central.

For the Capitals, Sunday’s game was their second loss in a row coming out of their bye week after they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision in Detroit on Saturday.

It is the first time the Capitals have dropped consecutive games since Dec. 27 and 29. It is only the sixth time it has happened all season. They have lost more than two games in a row just once this season and never more than three in a row.

Hand injury sidelines Senators’ Bobby Ryan indefinitely

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 10:  Bobby Ryan #6 of the Ottawa Senators waits for a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on October 10, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Senators defeated the Leafs 5-4 in an overtime shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators have a chance to move into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division on Sunday evening if they can beat the Winnipeg Jets.

If they are going to do it they will have to do so without the services of forward Bobby Ryan.

The team announced on Sunday afternoon, less than three hours before puck drop against the Jets, that Ryan is going to be sidelined indefinitely due to a hand injury pending further evaluation.

The team says Ryan was injured in the third period of Saturday’s win over Toronto when he was hit in the hand by a puck.

In 50 games this season Ryan has 12 goals and 12 assists. He has been going through a bit of a scoring slump in recent weeks with only three points in his past eight games. He has also registered just 14 shots on goal during that stretch, including a pair of games where he failed to register even one.

The Senators enter play on Saturday just two points behind Montreal in the Atlantic Division. A win over the Jets would move them into a tie and, for the time being, give them the tiebreaker edge due to having played in fewer games.

WATCH LIVE: Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins

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The NBC Networks quadruple header of NHL action on Hockey Day In America continues on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh when the Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins enter the game coming off of an overtime loss in Columbus on Friday night and continue to play through some injuries with Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz all sidelined at the moment.

They remain in second place in the Metropolitan Division and have not lost a game in regulation since Jan. 26. They have gone 6-0-3 since, collecting 15 of 19 points in the standings.

On Sunday afternoon they get a Red Wings team that was a 3-2 shootout winner over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. The Red Wings beat the Penguins in Detroit more than a month ago.

Game time is 3 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream.

Click here for the Live Stream

Hockey Day In American Quadruple Header